Samuel Franklin Cody

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Samuel Franklin Cody's Geni Profile

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Franklin Samuel Cowdery

Also Known As: "Samuel Franklin Cody"
Birthdate: (46)
Birthplace: Davenport, Iowa, USA
Death: August 7, 1913 (46)
England (Flying accident)
Immediate Family:

Son of Samuel Franklin Cowdery and Phoebe Jane Van Horn
Husband of Maud Maria Cowdery
Partner of Elizabeth Mary King
Father of Samuel Frank Leslie Cody
Brother of Amanda Munger Cowdery; Martha Cowdery; Charles Cowdery and Lily Elizabeth Cowdery

Occupation: Showman, aviator, aircraft designer
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Samuel Franklin Cody

Samuel Franklin Cowdery (later known as Samuel Franklin Cody) (6 March 1867 – 7 August 1913) was born in Davenport, Iowa, USA.

He was an early pioneer of manned flight, most famous for his work on the large kites known as Cody War-Kites that were used in World War I as a smaller alternative to balloons for artillery spotting. He was also the first man to conduct a powered flight in Britain, on 16 October 1908. A flamboyant showman, he was and still is often confused with Buffalo Bill Cody, whose surname he took when young.

He was born in 1867 in Davenport, Iowa, where he attended school until he was 12 years old. He claimed that he had lived the typical life of a cowboy when he was young, learning how to to ride and train horses, shoot and use a lasso. Later he also claimed to have prospected for gold in an area which later became Dawson City, centre of the famous Klondike Gold Rush.

In 1888, at 21 years of age, Cody started touring the US with Forepaugh's Circus, which at the time had a large Wild West show component. He married Maud Maria Lee

Cody married his wife Maud Maria Lee when he was 21 years old in Norristown, Pennsylvania - the name Samuel Franklin Cody appears on the April, 1889 marriage certificate. He and Maud, who used the stage name Lillian Cody, started touring the US with Forepaugh's Circus, which at the time had a large Wild West show component.

Note He married Maud Maria Lee, [known as Lillian] in the USA. They were never divorced.

They also toured England with a shooting act. In London they met Mrs Elizabeth Mary King (later known as Lela Marie Cody) (née Elizabeth Mary Davis) who had stage ambitions for two of her younger children, Vivian and Leon King (later known as Leon and Vivian Cody).

In 1891, Maud Maria Lee (Cody's real wife) taught the boys how to shoot, but she later returned to the USA on her own. It seems that by 1891 Maud was unable to perform with her husband due to injury, morphine addiction and the onset of schizophrenia. After Maud returned to America, Franklin Cody took up with Mrs King. The marriage to Maud was never resolved but he and Lela Marie Cody lived together as common law man and wife for the rest of their lives.

Cody, Lela King and her sons toured the music halls in England, demonstrating his horse riding, shooting and lassoing skills. While touring Europe in the mid-1890s he staged a series of horse vs. bicycle races against famous cyclists. Cycling organisations quickly frowned on this practice, which drew accusations of fixed results.

In 1898 Cody's successful stage show, The Klondyke Nugget, included Lela's eldest son - Edward Le Roy (Edward King) from her marriage to Edward John King (a licensed victualler) and brother to Leon and Vivian. The children were known as Cody to save any embarrassment.

One of Lela's great-grandsons is the BBC World Affairs Editor John Simpson, who writes about Franklin Cody in his book Days from a Different World: A Memoir of Childhood.

Cody lived for the last few years of his life in Ash Vale, Surrey, where his former house is marked by a blue plaque and is adjacent to a car dealership called Cody's which features an aeroplane on its sign.


While out for a joyride in his floatplane, which he designed, it broke up at 500 ft and he and his passenger were both killed

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Samuel Franklin Cody's Timeline

March 6, 1867
Iowa, USA
September 7, 1895
Age 28
August 7, 1913
Age 46